By Dwayne Leavy
The transition to college life can be challenging with students often struggling to maintain a healthy balance between studies and sport. Enter DCU Sport.
The team at DCU Sport aims to improve students on the pitch by offering the very best in preparation, training and medical advice while ensuring that the correct structures are in place to find success off the field of play.
Ken Robinson, the CEO of DCU Sport speaks with great enthusiasm of the programme that has been installed at DCU Sport.
“At the start of another academic year we are focused on high performance and looking after all of our student athletes, the external high performance squads and teams that use the facility, external special populations and from a recreational point of view with student sport and staff and public joining the fitness facility.”
A new partnership this year will see unprecedented support for the GAA academy. Ken explains “every GAA player… that comes through DCU will be assessed and will be given a specific programme for their needs. And come out not only with an honours degree but as a better athlete. ”
“That’s a very exciting thing were doing with the academy, were working very closely with Michael Kennedy the GAA Academy Director and this will be a template that can be rolled out to Enda Fitzpatrick the athletics director”
The link between GAA and DCU was further strengthened this summer. Professor Niall Moyna was involved with the Dublin team and 12 students/graduates of DCU including both the captain Bryan Cullen, man of the match Kevin Nolan and the nerveless Stephen Cluxton. The growth with Dublin Football and hurling can be attributed in kind to DCU with players from underage hurling development squads to the senior team based in DCU.
DCU Sports complex, which has won the best leisure centre award in the country for the past two years, was revamped during the summer with over €250,000 invested in the gym including new equipment and upgrades to the high performance centre as well a s a new look reception and upgraded locker rooms.
It is natural then that the best athletes in the country are attracted to DCU. Prospective London 2012 stars such as Deirdre Ryan, Derval O’ Rourke, Mary Cullen Fionnuala Briton and Brian Gregan among others all train and benefit from the facilities on offer in DCU.
One of the main targets for DCU Sport will be to retain the Women’s Superleague. The side have won the last two titles and look set challenge at the very least for years to come.
DCU Sport has worked on a new arena floor for the (successful) basketball league teams. The CEO explains that “the team is very much working on a youth policy. A combination of DCU students and graduates on the team as opposed to bringing in professionals, were working with grassroots.” A formula which has paid off spectacularly and looks likely to continue to do so.
Perhaps the most exciting new opportunity for DCU comes in the form of its partnership with the Ex- Well Medical team. With Dr Noel McCaffrey (DCU Sport medical director) DCU Sport are working with local hospitals such Beaumont and the Mater to implement new medical programmes.
“Heart smart, breathe smart, programmes for diabetes, were developing a programme for oncology. That is what really differentiates DCU Sport. Our focus is on student sport, high performance and special populations.” “It makes us a medical/ high performance facility, suits our skillset and ideally places us to make a sustainable facility which is ultimately what we want.
Looking ahead to the future and Ken Robinson envisages a successful period ahead for DCU Sport. “The summer is preparing us for a good year. The facilities are second to none. Martina McCarthy our high performance manager (a former Olympian in Sydney) is working extremely hard with her team. We can cope with having good facilities for the fresher’s not only next year but in 10 year’s time. You get a sense that terrific work has been done behind the scenes to build a world class facility in DCU where athletes can build their careers.
The teamwork and incredibly seamless connections behind the scenes have allowed DCU Sport to flourish not only in Ireland but on the World stage. It has grown and fostered many athletes from a variety of backgrounds but continues to thrive. And Ken Robinson says the secret is the incredible team work that is the heartbeat of their many triumphs. “The great thing about our facility is we’ve got a great team in DCU Sport.
We have 30 staff members working on the three key focuses. From the child at six months learning to swim to our oldest member in their late eighties, it’s sport for all. That manifests itself in reality. You see people being comfortable in one environment, an Olympian, an All- Ireland winner. Someone walking by with an oxygen tank on the respiratory programme. Everyone comfortable in a sport for all environment.”